GRANITE CITY — Friends, family and residents lined Maryville Road, simultaneously welcoming home and bidding goodbye to one of their own as the motorcade slowly passed by.
The body of Staff Sgt. Christopher Wilbur, who died in a non-combat-related incident at Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Aug. 12, was escorted Monday by police departments in Granite City, Pontoon Beach and the Illinois State Police along the 29-mile route from Mascoutah to Granite City’s Irwin Chapel Funeral Home. Wilbur was 36 years old.
“All of the officers did a great job on the escort, the funeral procession and the motorcycles,” Pontoon Beach Police Chief Chris Modrusic said. “The motorcade did an awesome job. Everyone came out and showed their support. We had all of the schools like Grigsby (Intermediate School) and St. Elizabeth School showing their support and patriotism.”
The procession started at Mid-America Airport in Mascoutah at 10 a.m. The route went through westbound on I-64, northbound on I-255, westbound on Illinois 162, northbound on Illinois 111, westbound on Pontoon Road and eastbound on Maryville Road before ending at Irwin Chapel, where Wilbur’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday with full military honors.
Granite City Police Sgt. Jenna De Yong coordinated the procession. Capt. Mike Gagich of the Granite City Police Department said plans were arranged on Sunday but were tweaked after receiving the go-ahead from Wilbur’s family.
“Initially, we were told just one car,” Gagich said. “But when we came to the funeral home, (Wilbur’s) father said, ‘No, we have no problem with having more squad cars involved.’ So we got on the horn and started calling different agencies, state police, St. Clair County, Mascoutah, Lebanon and Pontoon Beach. It was a good turnout and it worked out fine.”
A 1998 Granite City High School graduate, Wilbur had served in the Army since June 8, 2005, and arrived at Fort Carson on Sept. 30, 2015. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colo. His military occupational specialty was indirect fire infantryman and member of the mortar squad.
Wilbur’s awards include four Army Commendation medals, two Army Achievement medals, four Army Good Conduct medals, a National Defense Service medal, two Afghanistan Campaign medals, an Iraq Campaign medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service medal, an Army service ribbon, three overseas ribbons, a NATO medal, a drill sergeant identification badge, a Combat Infantryman Badge and an Air Assault Badge.
Before joining the military, Wilbur worked as a drywall expert for several years.
Wilbur’s hobbies include reading, camping, hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding, playing chess and watching Cardinals baseball games.
Wilbur is survived by his wife, Lindsey; two children, Alexander and Susanna; his father and stepmother, Richard and Phyliss Wilbur; and mother, Peggy King.